Amazon is testing out a new payment method at its New York offices: hand scanning.
So far, the e-retailer has refused to comment on the project, which is code-named “Orville,” but a report in the New York Post notes that employees are testing the tech on company vending machines. The goal, apparently, is to roll out the scanners at Whole Foods stores across the country.
Here’s how it works: Users hold their hands over a special scanner that uses computer vision and depth geometry to identify each hand’s unique shape and size, per the report. Amazon Prime customers must go into stores for their hands to be captured and linked to their account before they can begin using the payment method.
The new payment method will also help to process transactions more quickly. While a typical card transaction takes three or four seconds, Amazon’s new tech can process the charge in less than 300 milliseconds, says the report.
It’s not a new concept by any means. Hand geometry, as the biometric is called, was used to protect access to the residential Olympic Village at the 1996 Summer Olympics.
The concept of hand geometry was developed and patented in 1985, according to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. The first commercial product using the tech came out the following year, but it wasn’t widely adopted. However, many companies do use hand geometry for time and attendance purposes. Walt Disney World has used “finger geometry” for years to expedite entrance to parks, for example.
Systems that measure hand geometry use a digital camera and light to take a scan. When you use one, you simply place your hand on a flat surface and line your fingers up for an accurate reading. A camera takes several photos of your hand and the shadows that it casts. That data is used to determine the length, width, thickness, and curvature of your fingers and hand. Then, it’s translated into a numerical template through an algorithm.
In total, 31,000 points are analyzed and 90 measurements are taken, according to the FBI.
While hand geometry is generally reliable, as people have unique hands and they don’t change throughout adulthood, hands aren’t as unique as fingerprints or irises, which are more popular biometrics used in smartphones to unlock apps or make payments. For example, your hands can change size and shape if your weight fluctuates or if you develop arthritis.
Still, the technology is reportedly accurate to one ten-thousandth of 1 percent. Amazon engineers are scrambling to improve it to a millionth of 1 percent, per the report.
Credit: Popular Mechanics